While boat building across the UK has grown, yacht manufacturing has fallen, according to a new report by British Marine

The UK’s boat building sector grew in 2016, according to figures revealed by the trade association British Marine.

Its UK Leisure Boat Manufacturing 2017 report found that overall revenue had increased by 1.6 per cent to £859 million.

The increase was largely due to sales of sailing dinghies, medium sized powerboats and RIBs. Nearly 8,000 sailing dinghies were built in the UK in 2016.

The picture was less positive for UK yacht manufacturing, with sales of sailing boats between 7.5-metres and 24-metres falling by 8.8 per cent.

While the decrease in overall numbers of yachts built in the UK has dropped dramatically over the last eight years, from 180 in 2008 to just 73 in 2016, some sectors of the market are performing well. 

Sean Langon, managing director of Discovery Group, which builds Discovery yachts and the newly-resurrected Southerly Yachts, as well as Bluewater catamarans, reported confirmed and estimated orders worth around £7 million from the Southampton Boat Show alone.

The figures in the new British Marine report noted that in contrast to yacht manufacturing, participation in yacht sailing has increased dramatically in the last two years, from just over 300,000 to around 500,000 in 2017.

It explained the opposing trends, saying: ‘Sailing yacht ownership has declined in popularity, but not participation in the sport, with charter holidays and shared ownership offering the flexibility of use and experience not afforded by conventional ownership. This trend is driven by changing customer behaviours in an ageing market.”

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The reported noted that competition for yacht sales, with increasingly dominant French and German manufacturers, was more intense than ever.

The production of sailing yachts, however, still generated just under half of all revenue for the whole sector in the UK, accounting for £40 million of sales.

British Marine CEO, Howard Pridding, commented: “Boatbuilding in the UK has changed dramatically in the last decade, with demographic and social change re-shaping manufacturers’ customer base and their access and approach to spending and boat ownership.”

“As a result, the market for boat builders in traditional boat segments has narrowed for boatbuilders across the world,” he added.

Changes in boat ownership include a move towards bigger boats. Premier Marinas announced that it is responding to demand by increasing the number of larger berths available at its Port Solent marina.

Premier’s general manager, Graham Bristowe, explained: “Port Solent was built in the 1980s and since that time manufacturers have made boats both longer and wider, which has meant that our current pontoons are now dated. This upcoming project endeavours to modernise the infrastructure.”

RYA cruising manager, Stuart Carruthers, added: “We would always encourage yacht owners to take friends and novices sailing. Yacht sailing can still seen as elitist, so we need to do more to bring people in at a grass roots level, and yacht clubs have a key role in matching owners to would-be crew and growing the sport we love.”